PIANOS FOR PEOPLE
Creative icon, community leader and philanthropist Tom Townsend passed away in St. Louis on October 4, 2019, following a brief battle with angio sarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Tom was a beloved husband, father, uncle, cousin, friend, teacher, mentor, partner, and connector of people from all walks of life. He was a passionate writer, musician, artist, photographer, philosopher, and advertising professional. He was a true inspiration to people all over the world, and had a profound impact on anyone with whom he came into contact.
Tom was Co-founder of Rodgers Townsend/DDB, a prominent St. Louis advertising agency, where he created award-winning advertising for AT&T, The Hartford, Enterprise, Energizer, Purina, McDonald’s and other national brands. Rodgers Townsend was awarded the Spirit of St. Louis Award for donating well over a million dollars’ worth of pro bono hours to St. Louis organizations including Forest Park Forever, The Foster Care Coalition, The Black World History Museum, The St. Louis Black Repertory Company, The Regional Arts Council, The Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis, Circus Flora, and others.
In 2010, Tom and Jeanne lost their oldest child, Alex, in a car accident while he was a graphic design and advertising student at Savannah College of Art and Design. They started the Alex Townsend Memorial Foundation to honor his memory, and in 2012 they founded Pianos for People. In July 2014 Tom retired from the advertising agency in order to focus his efforts on managing the rapid growth and long-term success of Pianos for People and the Alex Townsend Memorial Foundation, as well as his many other philanthropic causes.
Jeanne Knowles Townsend is a St. Louis attorney. She is also in her eighth year as Board Chair of the Oliverian School, a small alternative boarding school in Pike, New Hampshire. She served on the Board of the St. Louis Black Repertory Company for several years, as well, and continues to be an active supporter of the Black Rep.
As an attorney, Ms. Townsend practiced maritime law, and was the first female partner of Goldstein and Price in St. Louis. She is licensed to practice in both Missouri and Illinois.
Her passion continues to be education, particularly for creative kids struggling and often overlooked by traditional education.
Patricia Weeks Eastman is on the piano faculties of St. Louis University and Webster University where she is founder and co-director of the Webster Piano Ensemble Festival and Classical Piano Camps. In 2000, Pat formed a professional piano duo with colleague Donna Vince. They perform regularly in and around the St. Louis area. She has performed at the Sheldon, on From the Garden - Live! and with the Winston–Salem Symphony, the Brevard Festival Orchestra, the Webster Symphony and as pianist for the Concurso Nacional de Violin de Mexico. She has been a collaborative staff pianist at the North Carolina School of the Arts, the Southeast French Horn workshop, the vocal studios of Betty Allen and Charles Bressler and the Long Island Symphonic Choral Association under the direction of Gregg Smith.
She holds the BM in Piano Performance and MM in Performance and Pedagogy. Pat maintains a successful private teaching studio, is former Vice-President of the St. Louis Area Music Teachers Association, and an in-demand judge for piano festivals and competitions.
Michael is the former President, MasterCard Payment Transaction Services for Global Products and Solutions. In this role, he was responsible for leading the powerful debit and prepaid processing platforms that extend MasterCard’s value proposition beyond its traditional role as a network processor. Over his 30 years at MasterCard, he held the positions of group executive, Global Processing Business; Chief Technology Officer; Group executive, Strategic Account Management; and Senior Vice President within Computer and Network Services.
An accountant by profession, he has more than 34 years of experience, over 30 of them with MasterCard, in areas including corporate finance, U.S. regional finance, and operations.
He has previously served on the board of directors and executive committee of the local Better Business Bureau as well as the St. Louis University Institute of International Business advisory board. He currently serves on the finance committee of Family Forward and the Sheldon Arts Foundation Board of Directors
Michael, an accomplished guitarist, plays in the Pianos for People house band at the highly popular Piano Slams.
Hope has served in numerous leadership roles in the business world, culminating in Senior Vice President roles with The May Company department stores, and Caleres after moving to St. Louis in 1999. Since 2015, she has been lecturing at the University of Missouri, Columbia, teaching several courses in the Textile and Apparel Management Department as well as the Crosby MBA program in the Trulaske College of Business. She has served in leadership roles in many non-profit and educational organizations: Chairperson of the Textile and Apparel Advisory Board at the University of Missouri, founder and president of Women in the Footwear Industry, St. Louis chapter, and is currently a business mentor for the St. Louis Fashion Fund incubator.
Hope started piano lessons at a young age and her early remembrances are infused with music, with accomplished pianists on her father’s side of the family. After graduating from Brown University with a BA in Music, she continued her lifelong study of the instrument.
A graduate of Princeton University and Columbia University Law School, James’ love affair with the Arts began with his collegiate studies of Greek literature and its playwrights. His legal career started in Philadelphia and then to Atlantic City where James served as Vice President & General Counsel for Harrah's Atlantic City and later Harrah's Nevada in Las Vegas. After serving as corporate counsel for Argosy Gaming Company, James retired from the active practice of law and taught Western Civilization, World History and American History at Lewis & Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois.
James’ studied in South America as an AFS exchange student when he was 16 and has traveled extensively. Decades later, he is actively engaged in helping international high school students come to America and encouraging American students to study abroad through the various AFS programs. A lifelong lover of the Arts, James is the Board President of The St. Louis Black Repertory Company (“The Black Rep”) which is one of the most prestigious African American theater companies in the nation and the only one that has provided 39 seasons of continuous performances.
Mark and two business partners built Forward Research, Inc., a custom marketing research firm focused on providing strategic marketing insights to support new product concept development, market positioning, branding and messaging. Fortune 500 clients include Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Bayer and Monsanto. In 2008, the firm of 25 employees was sold to Ipsos, 3rd largest global marketing research firm worldwide, and Mark continued as a Sr. Vice President. In a prior life, Mark obtained an education degree and taught in a public elementary school setting.
Although not one musically talented bone in his body, Mark loves all types of music and attends the Chautauqua Institution music festival annually, enjoying classical, voice, and master classes on the grounds of Chautauqua. Mark is currently involved in St. Louis community policing and predatory lending task forces to address recommendations that came out of the Ferguson Commission.
Mark graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from The Colorado College and has an MBA, with a concentration in marketing, from Washington University in St. Louis.
Kelly Sledge-Martin is a health and wellness professional and certified yoga instructor. She also has over 20 years of experience in nonprofit management and corporate sales. This includes work for Johnson and Johnson, Merck & Co, Planned Parenthood of Louisiana and St. Louis. Kelly has also volunteered with many organizations, such as Girls on the Run and Ready Readers. She is also an active volunteer at her children's school John Burroughs School here in St. Louis.
Kelly graduated with honors from Stephens College. She earned an MBA degree from Fontbonne University. In addition, she completed doctoral work in public health at Saint Louis University as well as studied immunology at Princeton University. Kelly has a deep love of the arts and is the proud mom of two violinists and the wife of a jazz pianist.
Jim Messina is a St. Louis-based business executive and longtime amateur musician, having set the unofficial record for amassing the most points in a high school district music competition (reminder: lower scores are better. Jim’s full orchestra received a “1” rating, his brass quintet received a “2” rating, his trumpet solo received a “3” and his performance of Chopin’s Polonaise Militaire received a “4” and a memorable comment by the judge: “out of control.”). Soon after, Jim switched to jazz piano, learning the genre through a charitable program in his hometown of Kansas City, MO called “Jobs of Note” in which high school students were provided summer jobs learning jazz at the UMKC Conservatory and playing in jazz combos throughout the KC area. Today, Jim enjoys playing for charity events throughout St. Louis with his jazz quintet, the NFPJQ (Not-for-Profit Jazz Quintet).
In his professional life, Jim is a Partner and Chief Sales Officer with LIBRIX, a technology-forward training and development agency that works with the world’s largest companies to help their employees and partners achieve their full potential. Jim has also held senior leadership positions at Clearent, Maritz, and Computer Sales International, Inc. and regularly speaks to undergraduate and graduate level business classes at universities around the country on the topics of Sales, Customer Experience and Leadership learning strategies.
As a proud member of the Pianos for People Board and chair of the Board’s Fundraising committee, Jim is intensely focused on securing Pianos for People’s financial future to help us fulfill our mission of providing free access to the transformative power of music to those who need it most – children and families with limited resources, and the organizations that serve them. Please contact Jim at email@example.com if you would like to discuss how you or your organization can help.
Along with Tom Townsend, Tim was a co-founder and CEO of Rodgers Townsend advertising agency based in St. Louis. Tim retired from RT at the end of August 2017. Begun in 1996 as a two-person agency in the small conference room of a two-person law firm in Lafayette Square, “RT” grew in size and stature and was acquired by Omnicom in 2006. In addition to winning every major international creative award, the agency is cited for its egalitarian culture and commitment to pro bono causes, being the only advertising agency recognized with the Mayor’s “Spirit of St. Louis Award,” as well as a Forest Park Forever “Keeper of the Park.” RT is regularly ranked among St. Louis' “Best Places to Work,” and is one of only ten St. Louis Companies of any size to make the list every year. In addition, for six years running, the agency achieved the #1 ranking for agency culture among 97 DDB/Omnicom network offices around the globe.
Tim and Tom were elected to the St. Louis Media and Advertising Hall of Fame in 2014, were recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Advertising Club of Greater St. Louis in 2018. In 2001 they were named Ernst & Young “Entrepreneurs of the Year.”
Tim spent his first twenty years at D’Arcy, Masius, Benton & Bowles, where he left as Senior Vice-President/Account Group Director. At 26, Tim was the youngest vice-president in the history of DMB&B.
Tim and Tom also shared a strong commitment to St. Louis, and in 2006 co-developed one of the Cupples Warehouse buildings – Cupples 1, achieving L.E.E.D. Certification and a place on the National Historic Register in the process.
Tim is an insatiable student of history, a travel aficionado (who lived to tell of a physical encounter with a 700-pound gorilla), and still performs with March Hare, the rock group he fronted for five years in the 70’s. In retirement, Tim is two years into a lifelong quest to learn to play the piano, has begun writing his own music, and remains active with pro bono work for the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St. Louis U. High, Variety the Children’s Charity and Missouri Cures.
LEADERSHIP AND STAFF
Matt Brinkmann came to Pianos for People in September 2019 with an extensive background in nonprofit management and public service. A lifelong St. Louisian, he has experience in event and facility management, development, tourism, arts education and creative placemaking. He has served in a variety of roles at the Saint Louis Science Center, the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, the Sheldon Concert Hall, Great Rivers Greenway and the Gateway Arch Park Foundation. He has also been an active community volunteer for local institutions such as KDHX, the Regional Arts Commission and Tower Grove Park.
Musically, Matt is best known for his years as a longtime founding member of the Funky Butt Brass Band, where he wielded a sousaphone in service to the group for eight years, during which time they released three CD’s and were voted Best Funk/Soul Band in St. Louis four times. He is also self-taught on the piano and finds playing it to be a daily source of comfort and renewal.
Matt and his wife Beth reside in the Tower Grove South neighborhood.
Kayia Baker studied music at Southeast Missouri State University and Florissant Valley Community College, and business at Lindenwood University. She taught music for 7 years in the Riverview Gardens School District (Grades K-12) and has worked as a church pianist for 29 years in the St Louis area. She previously owned and operated her own music school for nine years where she served well over 400 students offering instruction in piano, voice, guitar and drums. She is passionate about music and loves to work with people and inspire them musically.
Kayia has been the Piano School Director at Pianos for People since June 2014 and has overseen the exponential growth of the student body and programming, including the introduction of summer camps and development of the Ferguson campus.
Kayia leads a team of nine teachers.
Hannah holds an M.A. in Religions and Cultures from Covenant Seminary, and a Bachelors of French and Music from UMSL. She is a St. Louis-native who has taught private piano independently for years, and worked as Music Coordinator at several churches. She has taught at PFP since 2016. She is now the lead teacher at our Ferguson location and also co-ordinates the Piano Donations program. Hannah is a composer and independent recording artist and has a passion for social justice.
Elizabeth has been teaching piano for twenty years both in a private setting as well as at Pianos for People for three years. She studied piano performance at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana under Joel Shapiro and Andrew DeGrado. She then came back to St. Louis where she began studying with Daniel Schene and built a private studio of thirty-five students. After having two beautiful girls, she took some time off and feels lucky to have now found a home with Pianos for People where she teaches an early childhood class, has private students and assists with development and events. Elizabeth is certified in the Suzuki early childhood program Every Child Can and is a member of the Missouri Federation of Music Teachers. Elizabeth believes in the importance of music lessons for the development of life skills, self-confidence and as a means to express oneself.
Mike teachers both piano and music production at both the Cherokee and Ferguson Studios. He is a Music Graduate from the prestigious University of North Texas, with a specialist in Jazz. He is a well-known performer in the St Louis area, and his specialty in Improvisation and Jazz has added an exciting dimension to our program of teaching. The new in 2017 “Learning to Improvise” workshop is highly popular, particularly with the teens who have been with us for some time.
Trévon Griffith is a native of St. Louis and a graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. He is also the founder of G Arts Foundation, an arts organization dedicated to developing the next generation of artists. He has worked for the St. Louis Black Repertory Theater for eight years and is presently the Music Director at Liberation Christian Church. Tre’von is also an up and coming solo artist who has opened for such notable acts as Grammy Award winning songstresses, Corinne Bailey Rae and Andra Day.
Hannah holds an M.A. in Religions and Cultures from Covenant Seminary, and a Bachelors of French and Music from UMSL. She is a St. Louis-native who has taught private piano independently for years, worked as Music Coordinator at several churches. She has taught at PFP since 2016. She is now the lead teacher at our Ferguson location and also co-ordinates the Piano Donations program. Hannah is a composer and independent recording artist and has a passion for social justice.
Claire Miller is studying piano performance at Webster University under the instruction of Daniel Schene. She started teaching at Pianos for People in our summer camp program two years ago and is loved by her students. Her caring and incredible piano skills make her an invaluable addition to our program. She also has a private studio which she began in 2015 as well as being the recital assistant and building monitor at the Webster University Department of Music. Claire’s performance experience and large repertoire as well as her patience, caring and creative teaching style inspire students to reach for their best.
Sherry Nelson has been playing piano since the age of five. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in psychology from Northwestern College in 2014 and her masters in social work from University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2017. She has taught piano to students from the age of five though adult many styles of music including classical and jazz. She believes strongly in incorporating each students personal learning style into her lessons along with theory utilizing different genres of music. She also uses therapeutic music approaches in group therapy sessions and has worked with individuals who suffer with mental health challenges and traumatic experiences. These approaches include using music to express feeling through drum circles and listening to lyrics. She believes in the power of using music as coping skill and the benefits it can have on one’s life.
Danny Ravensberg started piano lessons at the age of eight and studied music composition at University of Missouri, Columbia. He has now been playing for twenty years and has performed in Austin, Chicago, Las Vegas, and St. Louis with multiple bands including Stately Ravens and Eric Turner Trio. Danny enjoys helping students explore different genres of music including Blues, Jazz, improvisation and contemporary. He enjoys helping students discover their own musical experience through learning to follow their ear and and encourages them to listen to all kinds of music.
Amy Seibert earned her Masters degree in Piano Pedagogy from the University of Oklahoma and her Bachelors degree in Piano Performance and Pedagogy at Butler University. Her teachers include Kate Boyd (Butler University), Jeongwan Ham (University of Oklahoma), Karen Thickstun, Barbara Fast, and Jane Magrath. She is a former faculty member at Oklahoma Baptist University and worked as a graduate assistant at the University of Oklahoma. She worked as a sabbatical replacement at Wayne State College, and adjunct instructor Southwestern Illinois College. She is a current member of Suzuki Association of the Americas (SAA), member and former presenter for Music Teacher National Association (MTNA). She is also an instructor for Metro East Music Together, and Music Director at Lovejoy United Presbyterian Church in Wood River, IL. Amy enjoys working with as many types of students as she can, seeking to explore music from the unique perspective that each person can bring.
Elizabeth Welsh has been teaching piano for twenty years both in a private setting as well as at Pianos for People for three years. She studied piano performance at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana under Joel Shapiro and Andrew DeGrado. She then came back to St. Louis where she began studying with Daniel Schene and built a private studio of thirty five students. After having two beautiful girls, she took some time off and feels lucky to have now found a home with Pianos for People where she teaches an early childhood class, has private students and is the Development Assistant. Eiizabeth is certified in the Suzuki early childhood program Every Child Can and is a member of the Missouri Federation of Music Teachers. Elizabeth believes in the importance of music lessons for the development of life skills, self confidence and as a means to express oneself.
Ryan Coleman is a professional jazz pianist as well as a music instructor and producer based in St. Louis, MO. Ryan received his Bachelors and Masters degrees in music with an emphasis in Jazz Performance at Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville (SIUE). In addition to teaching, playing, and producing music, Ryan is also the owner of Red Coded Music, LLC, which currently includes a recording studio, rehearsal space, private music lessons and more. Ryan believes that music is a universal language that bridges the gap between all ages and nationalities.